Introduction to Electric Vehicles

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January 25, 2022

Elite’s Robert Bugielski wears many hats. One of those is serving as the local authority on electric vehicles (EVs). He has the hands-on and plug-in experience of owning a Tesla Model S. In this first entry of Elite’s EV series, Robert shares the background he’s learned.

Automobile Evolution

At the end of the last century, automobiles finally outnumbered horses and buggies. We’re now in the next century and the next big switch is coming: EVs will outnumber internal combustion engines. I know it’s hard to believe, but as a Tesla Model S owner, I can confidently tell you it’s going to happen. I often talk with family, friends, colleagues, (and even strangers) about my car when they see it. As an introduction to EVs, I’ll share some of those questions and answers.

What’s with the abbreviations?

If you’ve researched new vehicles, gone car shopping, or read automotive articles, you’ve experienced the overwhelming use of acronyms. It used to be simple: unleaded gas or diesel. Times have changed to include ICE, Hybrid, PHEV, and EV/BEV:

ICE – Internal Combustion Engine;

Hybrid – Small battery system charged by an ICE, typically no or little electric range;

PHEV – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, battery system charged by an ICE. Often a bigger battery that provides a longer electric-only range;

BEV or EV – Battery Electric Vehicle/Electric Vehicle: all-electric, all the time.

How much electricity do you use and how much do you save?

One of the changes you make when going from ICE to EV is in the way you think of energy sources and distance. In ICE vehicles we look at miles per gallon (MPG), in EVs we look at watt-hours per mile (Wh/mi). My model S averages 310Wh/mi, the equivalent of 3.23 miles per kWh. Currently our utility cost at my house is 7.1 cents per kWh. I use 10.5 kWh of electricity going to work and back home, or 75 cents per day. If instead I drove my wife’s Toyota Rav4, averaging 22 MPG, I would need 1.5 gallons of gas. Gasoline in Chicago suburbs currently costs $3.50/gallon, so it would cost $5.25 per day.

Truth be told, I rarely use a supercharger, and I know exactly how much because Tesla provides a supercharging record in your Tesla account. In two years, I’ve charged only 245 miles at a supercharger out of 18,578 miles I’ve driven. That means a mere 1.3% of my charging was at a supercharger and 98.7% of my charging was done at home with the stage-two charger in my garage.

Tesla’s Supercharger Network

When traveling long distance or out of state, how do I know I won’t run out of charge or not find a charging station?

In my experience, it’s as simple as putting the destination into the navigation app and letting the car do the rest. All I need to do is enter my parent’s Florida address into the navigation app. The car calculates the route, at what charging stations we’ll need to stop, and how much time is needed at each charging station. From Aurora, IL to Poinciana, FL my model S says it will take 24hrs to go 1,222 miles. There will be eleven charging stops varying from 10 minutes to 70 minutes, for a total charging time of five hours and forty-five minutes. Sure, if I made this trip once a month, the charging time would bother me. But if I’m driving this distance once a year, eleven hours of round-trip charging wouldn’t bother me, especially if I save a few hundred dollars using electricity instead of gas.

What happens if you get stuck in a snowstorm?

Recently there was a traffic jam in Virginia that trapped motorists on a highway for a day. I’ve seen some ill-informed comments about EVs, asking what would happen in that situation. Tesla vehicles have a “camp” mode that shuts everything off in the car except the HVAC system. This feature uses between 0.5-2kWh of power per hour depending on external and internal temperature. My model S has a 90kWh battery pack; assuming I was stuck with 60kWh left in my battery, in the worst case I could run camp mode for 25 hours and still have 30 miles of driving range. If conditions are not that extreme and my car only uses 1kWh of power per hour, the battery would last 50 hours. A big difference is that ICE vehicles don’t always leave the house in the morning with a full tank. My EV is plugged-in every night with a stage-two charger, and I always leave in the morning with 72kWh charge (80%) as recommend by Tesla for improved battery life.

What do you like most about driving a Tesla?

This is the question most often asked and the hardest to answer, because it’s hard to say which difference I enjoy most. The autopilot is a breath of fresh air, especially when driving in Chicago’s stop-and-go traffic. Minimal maintenance is another benefit; my owner’s manual has two entries for maintenance: HEPA air filter changed every three years and brake fluid flushing every four years — that’s it. No oil changes, no transmission/transfer case flushes, no timing belts, no spark plugs, no alternators, cylinders, pistons, hoses, etc. It’s also nice to warm up my car up in winter with the garage closed and no worry about exhaust fumes.

But if I were forced to pick one thing, it would be the ease of plugging it in at night and having a charge every morning. No more leaving in the morning allowing time for a gas-station stop, no standing in -10F Chicago windchills swiping my credit card and pressing “no” to all the questions just so I can pump gas, no standing in poorly plowed gas-station pump lanes, and finally, no more checking gas prices.

Coming up: safety and compliance testing of electric vehicles

EV testing is a fundamental part of their development and necessary to meet their required standards.   Here at Elite the electric vehicle market is a key part of our business and is an area that we have significant expertise and capability.  

Robert’s insight provides the first entry in a series of EV blogs and technical articles that will highlight the important work we do to support manufacturers as they develop components, systems, and whole vehicles. 

Watch for those and Contact Elite with your questions about EV testing and requirements.